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Bottled Ship Builder

How did you get hooked and who inspired you?

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Hey Jeff,

Some great reading from everyone. My story goes back To my grandfather who was an avid whittler. He was one of those that you see sitting on the front porch after everything was done relaxing with a knife and a chunk of wood. As an 8 year old, it seemed like he could carve anything. He gave me my first pocket knife. A yellow handle old timer. I'd give anything to find that knife. One year he made all of us grandkids a SIB for Christmas. Nothing elaborate but still enough to amaze all of us. Being the oldest, I was privy to this beforehand and watched him as he put them all together. Each one in a different bottle. It was literally an amazing site to see as was everyone's surprise when they opened them that Christmas. Soon after, he had passed away and the thought of ship building gave way to all the other things related to adolescence. Off and on something would happen that would bring those memories back, even as stated in another story on here, the 4th pirates movie. But it wasn't until a couple of months ago, when I turned 50 and there was this bottle that that i came across, that looked exactly like the one that my grandfather made for me and I had this overwhelming urge to finally give it a try and see if I can't produce the same memories for my future grandchildren that my grandfather did for me and that has led me here to this website and you good people.

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Hey Don that is one awesome story. I too had an old timer years ago. Mine had a two tone brownish handle. They were and still are great knifes. I gave mine to my eldest son when he was 7 years old and we made many small ship models but never put them in bottles. The best thing a Dad can do is leave a heritage and pass it on to the next generation.

Blessing your grandchildren with your time and stories of old are things they shall never forget.

Good on you to get back into the hobby,

Blessings to you and yours and welcome aboard. You will like this group as everyone is kind, knowledgable, and trustworthy!


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It is something that I never got hooked on!      I am OK with making miniatures in conventional cases, but the thought of the added work and patience that is required to make them fold down and up again really puts me off!     For many years, I have been committed 100% to rigging in wire, and that could never be made to fold down and up again, so I am just an admirer of the work others do in the SIB field.


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  • 2 years later...

I noticed that this topic is rather old but what started  me off on building SIB was the mother-in-law. Yeah I know that sounds daft but she returned from London in the 80's with the 'Cutty Sark' in a bottle.

My concern was how much she had paid for this rather tatty ship in a bottle. I told her there and then that I could make a better model than she had bought so she said 'make one then'. 

Needless to say my first attempt was terrible and ended up in the bin but I'd caught the bug and after getting hold of some books on the subject I was away......

Still learning though......... Onni

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  • 4 weeks later...

As a kid I always had a fascination with naitical folk art & pretty much anything that was encased in glass. Ships in bottles being one example. 

I am fortunate enough to remember some of the old ‘true seamen’ of the town who were regarded as heroes. Visiting their homes with my parents or granparents would be a wonderful experience a bit like wondering arount a curiosity store. Almost every home would have at least one ship in a bottle. 

I was given a lovely piece as a gift from an old fellow from the Morris family. Even today looking at the little schooner fills me with wonder.

Although I am new to this I did manage to build a ‘decent’ SIB that I was happy with. Sadly I did not create a build log. I have posted a photo on the FB page & will do on the forum once I figure out how. 



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  • 3 months later...

Started making plastic models as a kid.  The silver age types...Aurora, Pyro, & Airfix were my favorite.  My sketchbook was filled with ships and seascapes.  At Boy Scout camp, got into wood carving with the handi-dandi-cut-yourself multi-bladed knife I got at the trading post.  Shortly after that, I acquired the First Aid Merit Badge.   Got out of models in high school then picked up wooden kits while in the oil field...worked on RC sailing schooners & some static pieces.  Launched my first RC schooner in an Oklahoma cow pond where dozens of water snakes came up from the deep to see what was on the surface.   Took a break from ships & carved about 100 decoys which I sold.  Returned to making ships & one, the 1807 Hornet,  was accepted into the 200th Constitution model show.  Have made several models for museums since then.  An artist friend suggested that I try a ship in bottle, so I read two books and got hooked.  Sold to a gallery on the Outer Banks and then discovered art shows & maritime festivals.  Am thankful for the various  museums support  over the years.  In preserving this art, one has to learn glass.  That in itself is just a interesting.  The ions in the silica mixture will give the glass color, and Uranium will yield yellow to orange...and it is still hot ! Am slowing down now due to  family genes ( if Mom & Dad wanted to give me something, a T-shirt would had been dandy !!! ).   Still have numerous vessels to build both in and out of the bottle.  Often I ponder, as perhaps others have, if the affinity with ships and sailing is a past-life carryover.  

Cheers & Fair Winds,



Edited by Jim Goodwin
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  • 4 months later...
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  • 8 months later...

  I saw one as a kid on the mantel at a friend's house. The grownups wouldn't let me pick it up to study (I was seven) so I just looked the hell out of it and when I got a chance asked a nautical relative how it was done. He explained that they operated like puppets with the strings threaded through holes in the masts. Something he left out was that the spars had to pivot on the masts, so I wasted a couple of years letting the bottle neck dictate the length of my spars, simply gluing them in place with Duco cement.


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